Tuesday, September 3, 2013

2013 Reading - Books 82-84

82) Cockpit Confidential, by Patrick Smith.

Patrick Smith is a commercial pilot and the author of the Ask the Pilot blog (formerly a column at salon.com). I've always been fascinated by his columns even though I'm not really a frequent flyer, typically flying 2-3 times a year for family, vacation, and writers' conferences. (I'm just frequent enough to get impatient when I'm stuck behind truly infrequent flyers who don't have the check-in and security line process down cold.) He's made me a much less nervous flyer--I finally believe that turbulence won't knock my plane out of the sky. Anyway, this book is much like his blog, informative and snarky, and I recommend it for anyone who'd like a behind-the-scenes look at air travel.

83) Defeat: Napoleon's Russian Campaign, by Philippe-Paul De Segur.

As I continue researching Napoleon's invasion of Russia for my next manuscript, I've moved on to campaign memoirs. This, written more than a decade after the fact by one of Napoleon's aides-de-camp from the campaign, is a fascinating and often horrifying read. It's a self-consciously literary saga of the Fall of the Hero, Occasioned by Hubris, but not made any less valuable as a primary source thereby--if anything, it's especially useful to see how the men of the Grande Armee made sense of their experiences, both at the time and in retrospect.

But what is up with that cover image? Would it have been so hard to find an image of a Napoleonic-era cannon?

84) Divergent, by Veronica Roth.

This seems to be the second-most popular dystopian YA series after The Hunger Games, and I picked it up out of curiosity after hearing about the upcoming movie. While I didn't completely buy into the concept of the faction-based social order (basically, your life is determined by whether you're more inclined to see courage, kindness, honesty, selflessness, or the pursuit of knowledge as the key virtue), I was able to accept the premise and let the story run with it, and me. It's compelling, and I've already put the second and upcoming third books in the series on my library holds list. That said, though I let my daughter read The Hunger Games and its sequels over the summer, I'm not going to tell her about these. It's not so much that they're more violent as that Tris feels less remorse about her kills than Katniss, and I'd rather my fourth grader stick to the latter as a role model for now.

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